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For Immediate Release, December 24, 2008

Contact: Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943 or (323) 490-0223 (cell)

Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan Revision Tainted
by Political Meddling
Center for Biological Diversity Asks Federal Agency to
Come Clean, Use Science

RENO, Nev.— The Center for Biological Diversity today called on the Inspector General to investigate political meddling by Bush Administration appointees in the revision process of the draft recovery plan for the threatened desert tortoise. The Center also called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore integrity to the revised draft “recovery” plan, asking that the draft revised plan to be rewritten before it is finalized in order to remedy the political interference wielded on the plan by Julie MacDonald, a now-disgraced former Bush political appointee. A series of telltale e-mails and letters acquired through requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, show political influence by MacDonald and her fellow hacks in the plan revision process. MacDonald’s dubious record of overriding scientifically defensible decisions in favor of politics has been well-documented, and the draft desert tortoise recovery plan is another victim of her meddling.

“We thought there must have been political meddling, because the junk science used to justify the revisions was so laughable,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Through the FOIAs, we were able to confirm that the Recovery Plan had indeed become a victim of the Bush administration’s war on threatened species.”

Instead of providing immediate, firm protections for desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), the draft recovery-plan revision proposed a time-consuming process of monitoring and adaptive management. The plan provides only vague descriptions of recovery actions, and fails to derive those actions from the best available science. It also fails to tackle solutions to many of the scientifically recognized threats to desert tortoise, including disease, roads, off-road vehicles, grazing, weeds, increased fire risk, and other causes of habitat degradation.

“This political corruption needs to be immediately expunged from the recovery-plan update process and replaced by effective science-based solutions,” Anderson said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service still has the opportunity to remedy the situation and rewrite the recovery plan that will serve as the roadmap for actual tortoise recovery.”

The tainted recovery plan revision may replace a more rigorous and science-based recovery plan that has been in place for more than 15 years. The 1994 recovery plan contains specific on-the-ground conservation recommendations, but it has never implemented adequately.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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